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Dutch investigators reject Russian MH17 radar data: no surprise there

Wilbert Paulissen of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) speaks on the preliminary results of the investigation into the shooting-down of Malaysia Airlines jetliner flight MH17 during a press conference in Nieuwegein, Netherlands, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016. The disaster claimed 298 lives. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

News reports which say that Dutch investigators are claiming that they are unable to decipher radar information provided them by the Russians in connection with the MH17 investigation, will come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the MH17 investigations carefully.

I do not know what value this radar information has.  There has to be concern about the fact that the Russians claim to have discovered this radar data only on the eve of a report by the Joint Investigation Team, which implicated Russia in the shooting down of MH17.

Against that the Dutch claim that the Russian radar data “fails to meet international standards” is bewildering.  Evidence obtained or provided during an investigation is often degraded.  That is not a reason to refuse to look at it, or to refuse to take it into account.  The Russians say that they are willing to help the Dutch “decipher” the radar data.  The Dutch ought to accept that help, and then decide what if any weight they should put on it.

The reality however is that the consistent pattern of the MH17 investigations – both the accident investigation which reported in October 2015, and the criminal investigation which first reported in September 2016 – is that the investigators either ignore whatever technical evidence the Russians send them or – as in the case of the accident inquiry’s treatment of the evidence provided by the BUK missile manufacturer Almaz-Antey – they misrepresent it (see my detailed discussion here).

Both inquiries have also excluded the Russians from involvement, in the case of the accident inquiry largely so, in the case of the criminal inquiry entirely so.  This is in contrast to the prominent role the Ukrainians have been given in both inquiries, with the criminal inquiry having been originally set up by them, and with their agents doing most of its field work.

The investigators’ treatment of the Russian radar data simply follows this pattern, and by this stage in this investigation no-one should be surprised by the fact.

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